How to Please the Patriarchy

We’ve all seen it, right? Heard about it? This idea that women are complicated — no really, super duper hard to understand — while men are simple and want simple things.

One particular image has made its rounds on Facebook recently.

Movies with titles like What Women Want, memes referencing “What She Said vs. What She Meant,” and bandwagon appeals along the lines of “well, everyone just knows it’s true” reinforce this notion. Clearly, women want a lot and men want very little, right?

Let us set aside the fact that the cultural narrative generally is from the male perspective (i.e. that men constitute the majority of directors, screenwriters, executive producers, music producers, lyricists, famous novelists, and so forth), influencing the dominant cultural perceptions of love, romance, attraction, and gender. Let us also disregard how the idea of women as demanding, gold-digging, party-pooping nags belies the true nature of love and marriage (i.e. men benefit from it far more from it overall than women do, statistically speaking). Last, but not least, let’s forget about the fact that most women have so much in the way of body-image baggage that the “naked” part of the equation is fraught with all sorts of problems — and that the body type that the vast majority of women have is not the one that is the first to come to most people’s minds when they picture a nude female-bodied person.

Where do such notions leave men, not least of all men who are into wine and partially-clothed sex?

If we were to accept the idea that men are all simple and all the same, someone must set up this rather narrow standard of masculinity. Men who do not conform to it are either ridiculed or forced into silence about their true desires. Nuance, variability, novelty, uniqueness — all of these are suppressed in men when people buy into the notion that all that is needed to make them happy is, basically, a beer ad scenario.

When people insist that it must be just so even in the face of evidence to the contrary, they are valuing stereotypes and gender norms instead of each other. If it is still Valentine’s Day where you live and you have (a) male-identified partner(s), why not honor and acknowledge them for the individuals that they are? I’m sure most of us would prefer to make ourselves happy instead of reinforcing gender norms.

Heina Dadabhoy

Heina Dadabhoy [hee-na dad-uh-boy] spent her childhood as a practicing Muslim who never in her right mind would have believed that she would grow up to be an atheist feminist secular humanist, or, in other words, a Skepchick. She has been an active participant in atheist organizations and events in and around Orange County, CA since 2007. She is currently writing A Skeptic's Guide to Islam. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

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  1. Hear hear! Some of us want sappy poetry, candles, lingerie, and nuance.

    Just like I’m sure there are women out there that’d love to either be gifted or gift being naked and holding beer. Nuance, personalization, is more romantic anyway. At least I think so.

  2. Well if men can be pleased by people showing up naked and bringing beer I would encourage nudist resorts and breweries. Oh, wait nudist resorts might mean naked MEN and there’s no way that any man would want THAT. /snark

        1. Disembodied penis? Sounds like that would make for an awesome horror flick. Oooh… it’s the disembodied penis…. and it’s coming for YOU… OOOOooooOOOOO….

    1. //naked MEN and there’s no way that any man would want THAT//

      Don’t be so sure of that ;).

  3. Somewhat sadly my partner and I had to focus on work this holiday. So the fact that he took the dog out, bought some fast food for dinner, and brought it home to me while I taught a 2.5 hour online course was honestly the best gift I’ve gotten in a long time.

    Although I wouldn’t say no to him naked with a six pack… ah memories. :)

  4. I never even started trying to fit into the masculine stereotype. On the two criteria here: I don’t drink alcohol*, and naked has its place, but not early in a relationship.

    * For no deep reason, I just don’t see the attraction.

    1. While I refuse to endorse the stereotype of men in popular culture…

      You’re really missing out on some really interesting flavors and textures by dismissing beer. It’s really a unique foodstuff.

      Mmkay, brew proselytizing over.

      1. I agree 100%.

        I mean, sure, yeah, every now and again I’ll drink to get a buzz (tho I long ago stopped drinking to get drunk), but for the most part, I drink beer, because beer is delicious. And there are so many styles to try.

        A lot of people think “alcohol = drunk!” but that is just not true!

        Annnnyway, now you got me started!!! :)

    2. As I beer loving person, I say that’s your choice and I won’t proselytize. It sounds like you’ve tried it and don’t like it. More for me.

      /partner doesn’t drink either

  5. Yeah, it’s funny, people are complicated; all of them regardless of which gonads they possess, what group they wish to shag, or whether they believe themselves to be. Go figure.

  6. I like beer and nakedness as much as the next guy (assuming that the next guy isn’t blind and/or has celiac desease) but to say that it’s the only thing it takes to please me in the romantic sense is a gross mischaracterization.

    For a long time, I have thought that I was sub-standard as a man because I don’t partularly enjoy sex all that much.

    1. Although I’m a boardmember of a soccer club, I don’t like to talk about soccer or other sports. It bores the shit out of me.
      I don’t like to talk about cars, DIY and (sextalk about) women.
      Last november a member of one our women’s teams had to help me change a tyre on my car, I’m useless at things like that.
      I guess that makes me sub-standard too.

        1. I used to say that the only sport I follow is Quidditch, but the joke’s old now. I was stuck at a Superbowl party and I did watch the last 4 or 5 seconds of the game. Which is more than I’ve watched in years.

  7. For Valentine’s Day I ported all of my husband’s data from his old phone to his new phone, set up his email on it, and made sure he had all his old apps.

    1. Wow, that’s taking a bullet out of love.

      I hate doing that with my own devices. I’m glad both of my partners are technologically inclined so that I don’t have to do this for them >.>

      I’d rather write them sappy flash fiction instead <.<.

  8. I’m going to ignore the rest of the post to point out a few things that are really bothering me. At one point you say this:

    “(i.e. men benefit from it far more from it overall than women do, statistically speaking)”

    You give 2 links there, and I reviewed both of them. They’re 2 book reviews for the same book. Neither are statistics, even though one of the links is actually texted “statistically speaking.”

    Why are we, as skeptics, allowing this kind of “evidence” to pass itself off as support for an argument?

    Someone wrote a book in 2001, great, but if we used linking to summaries of a book written in 2001 about Homeopathy as a basis for a rebuking of that, we’d be laughed at.

    Feminist articles really need to start being held to a higher level of scrutiny in the skeptical community. You can write about equality all you like (and I think it needs to happen, there is a problem), but if you’re going to be doing it for a skeptical audience, you need to actually be skeptical.

    1. The book that both links reference, Wifework, has a lot of the statistics in it. I was rushing to get this up (barely on time); the Amazon link to the book in question is http://www.amazon.com/Wifework-Marriage-Really-Means-Women/dp/1582342768

      The gist of the statistics is that marriage benefits men more than women, a pattern that is well-known. Here are some more links:

  9. Many years ago, a woman I was carpooling with listened to an audio book of Men are from Mars, Women from Venus. I thought it was such a load of crap because the stereotypical women he described were nothing like the women I knew and the cookie-cutter men certainly didn’t describe me. smh…

  10. This stereotype has been a source of irritation for me for a long, long time. It especially bugs me in beer ads because as far as I can tell, most beer advertised in this manner is like drinking diabetic horse piss (apologies to Sharon McCrumb).

    It’s not why I don’t drink beer like that, but it IS part of what drove me to abandon the world of Gillette and Schtick, and get a straight razor. I’m not real good with it yet, but at least I don’t have those damned commercials from the Daily Show running through my head while I shave.

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